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The White House State Dinner for Mexico: Too many cooks in the kitchen?

More stories about the White House Mexico State Dinner here.


Michelle Obama and White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford in February 2009, previewing dishes for the president's dinner for state governors. (Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP)

The only drama (so far) of Wednesday's state dinner for Mexican President Felipe Calderón: too many cooks in the kitchen?

For the second time, the Obamas have invited a guest chef to preside instead of White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford. Their choice: Rick Bayless, the Chicago-based celebrity cook renowned for his Mexican food and a favorite of the couple. Last November, Swedish chef Marcus Samuelsson created the meal for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Some foodies think Comerford is being shunted aside in favor of these high-profile food stars.


Rick Bayless in one of his Chicago restaurants. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

Until the Obamas moved in, guest chefs were very rare: The late Patrick Clark teamed up once with executive chef Walter Scheib for a state dinner honoring Nelson Mandela, but all the other high-profile meals were cooked by White House kitchen personnel. One former White House staffer told us bringing in a guest chef for a state dinner would have been "deeply insulting." But this administration has invited a number of visiting celebrities -- Bobby Flay, Michael Psilakis and Maricel Presilla -- and Sam Kass, the Obamas' personal chef who now works permanently alongside Comerford.

Others don't see any problem. "It's very common in our industry to host another chef," said Eric Ripert, top chef at New York's Le Bernardin and D.C.'s Westend Bistro, who's appearing with Anthony Bourdain at the Warner Theatre on Friday. "I do that very often. Sometimes we do it to help a friend, sometimes for a benefit, sometimes for fun." The beauty, he told us, is that both chefs learn new techniques and see new products from each other.

Bayless and Comerford are teaming up to create the menu for 200 -- all dishes from Bayless's restaurants. He's not allowed to bring his own food (the White House orders from secret sources for security, reports the New York Times), so he's using veggies from the first lady's garden and had to arrive Monday to start his sauces, which take two days to prepare.

"We'll have everything that we need to create our moles and ceviches and all that sort of stuff," he told NPR. "So, I feel like that I'm in really, really good hands."



More stories about the White House Mexico State Dinner here.

By The Reliable Source  |  May 18, 2010; 1:04 AM ET
Categories:  44: Obama's Washington , White House State Dinner  
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Comments

i would love to try food prepared by bayliss! love his show!

Posted by: nall92 | May 18, 2010 7:36 AM | Report abuse

You can't go wrong with Bayless..

Posted by: lwaya2 | May 18, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

I can only imagine all the vitriol that would be spewed by the left if Laura Bush was having celebrity chefs to the WH to cook for them. I wish she would go back to her 300K a year no show job at the hospital in Chicago!

Posted by: steveiev | May 18, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

One former White House staffer told us bringing in a guest chef for a state dinner would have been "deeply insulting." - Why is it always a former staff complaining your no longer employed by the WH get over it the President can bring in any chef he wants to.

Posted by: agarnett1000 | May 18, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

One former White House staffer told us bringing in a guest chef for a state dinner would have been "deeply insulting." - Why is it always a former staff complaining your no longer employed by the WH get over it the President can bring in any chef he wants to.

Posted by: agarnett1000 | May 18, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Our tax dollars are paying for this crap?

So typically out of touch - reminiscent of Marie Antionette.

Posted by: launchloan | May 18, 2010 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Who cares, it's only the taxpayers money!!!!!!!

Posted by: Jimbo77 | May 18, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Will they be checking the guest list this time?

Posted by: Benson | May 18, 2010 8:59 AM | Report abuse

WE AGREE-- TOO MANY CROOKS at the WH, and in CONGRESS!! -- U.S CITIZENS NOTE:-- that in 1-2 days, CONGRESS / SENATE will Vote on a Do-Nothing "FINREG' Bill!! - A so-called Financial Regulation Bill,-- that will "NOT", - WILL "NOT" Do anything to address the original problems that caused this Economic Terrorist CRISIS!! --- "STUPIDITY-to-the-MAX"!!! -- WE-the-People need to REMOVE this CONGRESS full of RED & BLUE "TRAITORS"!!! --- Replace this 'Do-Nothing' CONGRESS!! - From globalist "OIL' to globalist BANKsters,-- Nothing has changed in 35 years!? -- "ENOUGH of this CRAP"!! -- Talk & Talk about OIL, and the Oil-spill gets us NO WHERE AMERICA!! -- WE need Alternative, Safe, Clean- ENERGIES NOW!!! -- Since Congress will Do-Nothing, then "FIRE-the-whole-Damn-Bunch-of-Goof-Offs-NOW"!!! -- When is CONGRESS ever goin g to Listen to their' Bosses,-- to WE-the-People?! -- NO where in the CONSTITUTION does it read:- 'we-the-banksters', nor 'we-the-corporations', nor 'we-the-oil-cartels'!!!!!! --- NO MORE DEPENDENCE ON DIRTY $EXPENSIVE "OIL"!!! --- For 35 years both RED & BLUE in Congress have been TRAITORS!!!! -- FIRE the CROOKS!! --- WE need wholly new blood NOW!!!! -- WE-the-People have HAD-IT PERIOD!!!

Posted by: jward52 | May 18, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Why are Americans serving Mexican Food to the Mexican President...seems like Mexicans might like to think this was their area of expertise......Sorry I'm a Democrat but guest chefs at this level seems wrong (in addition to the cuisine choice)

Posted by: LeastOfThese | May 18, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

The problem is mot too many cooks at the White House. The problem is too many commentators with nothing better to do than portray every stinking little thing that happens inside the beltway in a negative light with a question mark...

Washington Post's Reliable Source: too few cells in the grey matter?

Washington Post's Reliable Source: V.I.P. wannabees?

Washington Post's Reliable Source: Whaddya mean theres no Pulitzer for party-crashing coverage?

Washington Post's Reliable Source: Who farted?

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | May 18, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

If Christeta is not offended, I don't see any offense as well. My only problem is that this is an extra expense. And I do think that this administration is too comfortable with loose spending in a time when our country is facing record deficits.

Posted by: forgetthis | May 18, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse


"At White House, too many cooks?"

Front page headline has typo... you mispelled

KOOKS!


Posted by: Obama_TRAITOR_in_Chief | May 18, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

So Calderon, the same guy who won by questionable means, goes accross the border to eat 'Burritos, quesadillas, and nachos' cooked by a fancy anglo-saxon character, to 'discuss', pardon me, to beg the POTUS please open the borders, something he does not do in his own turf. I thought he'd prefer to eat a jumbo burger with fries, something he couldn't find in the SouthBend

Posted by: WindLessBreeze | May 18, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

So Calderon, the same guy who won by questionable means, goes across the border to eat 'Burritos, quesadillas, and nachos' cooked by a fancy anglo-saxon character, to 'discuss', pardon me, to beg the POTUS please open the borders, something he does not do in his own turf. I thought he'd prefer to eat a jumbo burger with fries, dressed in chili catchup

Posted by: WindLessBreeze | May 18, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

So Calderon, the same guy who won by questionable means, goes across the border to eat 'Burritos, quesadillas, and nachos' cooked by a fancy anglo-saxon character, to 'discuss', pardon me, to beg the POTUS please open the borders, something he does not do in his own turf. I thought he'd prefer to eat a jumbo burger with fries, dressed in chili catchup

Posted by: WindLessBreeze | May 18, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Two thoughts:

1. The Mexican president comes to Washington, DC for Mexican food? Not cool.

2. If I was allowed to do my job until "something important" came along, then a celebrity was brought in, I'd be miffed, too. (Discreetly, of course.)

Finally, those complaining about "taxpayer money" for state dinners (because diplomacy obviously is not a function of government) need to make sure the White House is spending taxpayer money on this event. Remember the brouhaha about expensive china during the Reagan years? NOT taxpayer money. Be sure you're right before you vent.

Posted by: cfow1 | May 18, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

These Obamas. Even in their choice of chefs, always trying to keep a black woman down. Shameful.

Posted by: bandmom22 | May 18, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Who worries about petty stuff like this? Will the next Post article be a rant about the kind of cleaning products or toilet paper used at the WH? Is there any serious news to write about in DC or only endless petty rants about the Obama WH. I would think any chef would be honored to prepare a meal for heads of states and would welcome the publicity.

Posted by: clairevb | May 18, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse


Comerford is probably all for it. That lady works hard. She could use the help.

I was expecting to pull up this story and see Giada was joining, or Flay.

But it's Calderon and has to have a Mexican flare of course!!!!

I am real interested in Calderon coming to the White House and meeting with President Obama. It's critical as to what he thinks about bum @%#$ egypt down here.
////

BTW, my favorite is the Barefoot Contessa.

((yes, I am a foodie)))) (sigh)

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | May 18, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

These Odumbo mutts act like theyr think they're royalty, spending our tax dollars so flagrantly.
Send the slug from Mexico out to Taco Bell, since he is so outraged over Arizona's attempts to protect itself.

Better yet, send the incompetent Odumbo back to Mexico with him.

Posted by: LarryG62 | May 18, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse


Holy mackerel....think of Jackie O.

It would be a sin to have another chef, no?

But all JFK's "little women" (as called by Jackie) could come through the Marilyn Monroe door.

Go figure.

///
They are using the WH garden food and these state dinners - to be a part of--are an honor and ten bucks says Bayliss doesn't take a "salary" or "fee".
There are no "fees for services" when it come to the White House. In the real sense folks.

If the White House calls, you answer!!!

(at 3am in the morning when the phone is ringing)

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | May 18, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

While I love the idea of Guest Chefs, I am always amazed that people think that guests must be served food from their "home country." Having traveled extensively in South America, I can tell you that I didn't want to see another hamburger - I wanted local and regional cuisine. Though my hosts thought they were being gracious, their skills never matched American food. So, as a nod to the Guests, let's show them regional American cuisine - NOT American versions of their cooking!

Posted by: carolineC1 | May 18, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Rick Bayless is the premier chef of Mexican cuisine in the United States. Makes a lot of sense that he would cook for the state dinner hosting the President of Mexico. I've met Christeta Comeford. Very nice person and capable chef. Her specialties are not in Mexican techniques, however. I imagine she's excited about the opportunity to learn about a different type of cuisine from one of its masters.

Posted by: Terrence1 | May 18, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

A maybe tiff by a maybe tempermental chef? Instead of a boring article on the destruction of the Gulf Coast or a ho-hum story on the billion-dollar financial swindles going on in Wall Street offices and D.C. back rooms, the Post decides this is front page news. O.K......

The Post may want to send a squad of reporters to the set of "American Idol" - I heard Simon may be leaving..Remember, you heard it here first....

Posted by: shadowmagician | May 18, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

They not only have the WH chef but they have a personal chef as well? They can't be democrats.

Posted by: ratperson | May 18, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Michelle grazes, so anything prepared by Lawn Doctor will be good enough for her.

Posted by: dashriprock | May 18, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

shadowmagician wrote: Instead of a boring article on the destruction of the Gulf Coast or a ho-hum story on the billion-dollar financial swindles going on in Wall Street offices and D.C. back rooms...
__________________________________________

Don't get your hopes up. This is the same newspaper that had (has, thought her arse was canned) Sally Quinn writing on faith and now "family". Interesting to note that the further those things bearing Quinn's name get removed from The Post staff (aka her "ghostwriters") the more banal and sophomoric they are revealed to be.

These two are left overs (along with Givham) of the Quinn powerplay. Hopefuly The Post will soon get someone writing on community commentary with some energy, depth, talent and wit.

Posted by: SoCali | May 18, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I don't see any mention in the article about payment for these visiting chefs. My assumption is they'd do it pro bono for the publicity, while others' assume they're being paid exhorbidant sums by we the taxpayers. Of course our assumptions are rooted in our politics, but...

Does anyone know the real story on that?

Posted by: pcb28 | May 18, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Fantastically uncouth phrasing by so many pennywise critics. A word on taste: try it before you knock it. Bayless is the master of Mexican cuisine this side of the border and will undoubtedly leave any guest impressed!

Posted by: chuckholden | May 18, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I don't see any mention in the article about payment for these visiting chefs. My assumption is they'd do it pro bono for the publicity, while others' assume they're being paid exhorbidant sums by we the taxpayers. Of course our assumptions are rooted in our politics, but...

Does anyone know the real story on that?

Posted by: pcb28 | May 18, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Aren't state dinners traditionally (since they got rid of all that french crap) supposed to have dishes from the host country. nothing against bayless who's a fabulous chef but if they are gonna go the route of serving mexican food for the mexican head of state (kinda tacky no?) shouldnt it at least be fusion?

bayless is great because he makes authentic traditional cuisine, stuff id expect to see at a mexican state dinner for obama and not an american state dinner for calderon.

Posted by: PindarPushkin | May 18, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

This is sooooo not a story.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | May 18, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

One this is coasting the taxpayers more then it is worth. Yes people we are paying for 2 chiefs to do the work of one. Second Michelle Obama should practice what she preached. It was her that said the the well off have to give more so the poor can have more. She is not giving one bit, the money for this over priced chief would be give to the more needed. The Osama’s are living more like royalty then the servants of the people.

Posted by: catr4411 | May 18, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

The food might be good - but his restaurant in Chicago was SOOOOOOOO LOUD it gave me a horrible headache.

And it wasn't the people (normal talking going on) but somehow the acoustics were designed poorly and the sound bounces all around and hits you.

The noise level was unbearable and I think the food was even shaking with bad nerves.

So- it will probably taste better in the White House, even if it seems a little bitter to the chef who is being pushed aside to glorify this one.

Posted by: amelia51 | May 18, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

The Calderon visit is big.
It's endearing to get the top chef in the country.

I wonder if this Bayless is related to the Bayless' that are in Arizona. They were big in the 80s with groceries stores down here.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | May 18, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

The idea that the Obamas are entertaining like royalty while this country is suffering to badly is disgusting. And I don't remember them mentioning during the campaign that they had a personal chef. That would have given me pause. He should worry more about our many serious issues in this country and stop worrying about celebrity chefs. This couple thinks they have been appointed King and Queen.

Posted by: rlc5495 | May 19, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Now, give a Summer's Picnic for lots of folks and get Paula Deen and her two sons to cook!

Posted by: MissMay | May 19, 2010 10:18 PM | Report abuse

I agree. Why MEXICAN food? It's insulting, no matter how good Bayless is. Haute Mexican cuisine is sublime and very difficult to prepare. Mexicans are rightly very proud of it. What were the Obamas thinking?

Posted by: washingtonian123 | May 19, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

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